Job Interview Question: Why Shouldn't We Hire You?

Businesswoman interviewing prospective employee
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On a list of challenging interview questions, "Why shouldn't I hire you?" is likely high on the list, if not at the top. This type of curveball question has two purposes from an interviewer's perspective. Firstly, recruiters want to gain a balanced view of candidates during an interview, which includes both your strengths and limitations. This question can help uncover some of your weaknesses. Secondly, hiring managers want to see how you handle yourself with your back against the wall and an obstacle that forces you to think on your feet.

This question is a more antagonistic version of the usual inquiry, “What’s your biggest weakness?” The primary strategy with both these questions is to use your answer as a chance to highlight a strength. Answered correctly, it's actually a chance for you to shine!

It is a tricky question that can force you to think on your feet if you aren't prepared. Here are some tips — along with sample answers — for answering "Why shouldn't I hire you?"

Twist Your Answer Around to Emphasize a Strength

The best responses answer the question with a quality that can be seen as a strength within the right corporate culture or work role whereas in another corporate setting or job, this same quality might not be embraced.

For example, if you prefer jobs and companies that reward independent thinking, you might respond, "You shouldn't hire me if you are looking someone who thrives in an environment where management strictly prescribes how to perform each task. I work better when I'm given some general guidelines with the desired outcome and am then allowed some leeway regarding how I would carry out that task."

Focus on a Personality Trait

Another example might be to emphasize a personality trait that might be viewed favorably in some jobs, but not in others. For example, you might say, "You shouldn't hire me if an extrovert wouldn't fit in well at your company or in this job. I thrive on interaction with colleagues and customers. I can stay on task, but building positive relationships with people is my clear priority."

Be Honest

No employee is free from weaknesses — that's simply impossible. So, if you respond by saying, "There's no reason not to hire me," it'll sound disingenuous. And, it'll also indicate to your interviewer that you're either immodest or not good at thinking on your feet. Neither of these is a good outcome. Even if it's something small, like being a bit slow-moving in the morning, mention something. 

For example, you might say, "If you're looking for someone to lead meetings, then I'm probably not the right fit for this position. I'm better suited to being an active participant in meetings than to lead them. But where I really shine is execution — so often, a meeting generates a lot of great ideas, but then none of them are completed. One of my strengths is following up on meeting tasks and completing projects in general." 

Mention a Weakness — Carefully 

Another option for answering this question is to mimic how you'd respond to "What's your greatest weakness?" Mention a weakness, then discuss how you're working to improve in that area. Again, be sure not to mention a weakness that will make you ill-suited for the position. 

For example, "When it comes to projects, I always hit my deadline. But I have to admit; I'm not great at arriving to work at 9 a.m. sharp. If it's important to your company to have employees arrive bright and early, full of energy, then I'm likely not the right match. I'm a classic night owl, which means I tend to work late at the office. 

Here are some things to avoid in your response: 

Don't Be Overly Negative

Yes, you do have to give a reason why the interviewer wouldn't want to hire you. But that negative bit shouldn't be the focus of the answer. Make sure to pivot quickly in your answer to something that's more positive. 

Don't Provide a Disqualifying Reason

If the job calls for a detail-oriented person, this is not the moment to confess, "I'm one of those people who'd forget my head if it wasn't attached!" Make sure your answer doesn't point out a flaw that is a deal-breaker for the position. 

Skip Answering Altogether

As mentioned above, you do have to give a reason why employers might not want to hire you, and it should be reasonable and honest. Yes, you should focus on the positive, but failing to respond to the question at hand does not reflect well on you as a candidate. 

Be Prepared for Follow-Up Questions

Of course, you need to match the qualities you share with the job and company. Be prepared for follow up questions such as "Give me an example of how your extroversion has helped you in your last job."

You may also get a follow up with a more direct inquiry about your weaknesses. In that case, be ready to share a weakness that is not central to the job or one that you have been addressing with some success. Or, opt for a weakness that's a soft skill like time management or organization rather than something like lack of education that might be essential to job performance. 

Nobody's perfect, so stating you don't have a weakness isn't a believable or effective answer. Instead, the best approach is to demonstrate that you know your strengths, are aware of your weak spots and have learned to work around your flaws, so they don't interfere with your success.